City: Cluster report showing disparities

Vincent Marshall
Now that KDHE is listing cluster reports of businesses and facilities of COVID-19, several businesses say the numbers reported are not accurate.

Now that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is listing cluster locations of COVID-19 at businesses, schools and organizations, the numbers are incorrect according to several of the businesses.

According to the KDHE cluster report, Dodge City Hall is listed as having 13 active cases; however, city hall disagrees.

"The number reported for city hall is not representative of current cases amongst employees," Dodge City public information officer Abbey Martin said. "The majority of city employees that have contracted COVID-19 have recovered and have been released by the Ford County Health Department or their primary care physician."

Martin said city staff has been in contact with KDHE and health officials regarding the cluster listing, saying “we are currently assessing the accuracy and source of their data. If we receive a response from KDHE we will share."

Dodge City manager Nick Hernandez added, “Shortly after reopening city hall to the public in June, the city implemented additional measures to ensure public safety, including mandatory masks for employees, hand sanitizer, protective Plexiglas at all city counters and increased cleaning procedures.

"These precautionary measures continue to be priority number one and will be for the foreseeable future.”

According to KDHE communications director Kristi Zears, the number of cases listed is reflective of the total since the outbreak began and does not reflect the number in isolation or quarantine currently.

However, when clicking the link to show active cases according to the cluster report, the cases listed still show as active.

"The total number even since the beginning [of the pandemic] is inaccurate," Hernandez said.

Hernandez also had concerns on the city hall listing name itself on the KDHE website.

"Does the Dodge City Hall mean it’s the city hall or is the police and fire department lumped into that, as well?" Hernandez asked. "We are in contact with KDHE on getting that confirmed."

As for the current total number of cases at city hall, Hernandez said there are none.

"We do have two city employees that tested positive but aren't a part of city government and the exposure was from friends and family.

"And again, we are not blaming anyone for anything. We are just doing everything to mitigate exposure for employees and the public through wearing masks and health procedures since we reopened in June and have been pretty successful at it."

According to KDHE officials, along with Gov. Laura Kelly, the move to list cluster locations was for residents to have transparency as cases across the state have started to increase.

The cluster listings started being placed on the KDHE website on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Clusters will be listed for entities showing five or more active cases, while private businesses will be listed as a cluster with 20 or more cases.

The KDHE website states that a cluster will no longer be considered active after 28 days have passed without a new case of the virus.

The cluster listing also showed Cargill in Dodge City with 594 cases, National Beef in Dodge City with 647, Dodge City Community College with 12, DCCC athletics with 37 and Dodge City Unified School District 443 showing 27 cases.

This week, Dodge City added 53 new COVID-19 cases, according to the KDHE.

"Active clusters are defined as having had cases within two infection period cycles, or 28 days," Zears said. "Clusters that have not had a case develop in 28 days are labeled as closed and won’t be listed on our site.

"The clusters listed as active on our site have had a case within the last 28 days.

"An important distinction, we do not list active/closed cases on our site. The case totals listed in the cluster are the cumulative cases connected to the listed cluster."

DCCC stated it is working on getting an accurate count of current cases and those numbers will be released late Thursday.

Cargill media relations director Daniel Sullivan also confirmed the KDHE site listing is overall since March.

“I did confirm that is total number since start of the pandemic," Sullivan said. "We currently only have 11 active cases, with about half of those expected to return to work later this week."

Dodge City Public Schools said it currently has 21 active cases.

According to Dodge City USD 443 public information officer Kerri Baker, the list of schools of where those cases have occurred is being compiled.

On Sept. 9, Dodge City Public Schools posted on its Facebook page of two students that had confirmed positive cases in a fifth-grade class at Sunnyside Elementary School.

"The administration immediately moved all students to a sanitized space to mitigate spread of COVID-19," the post said. "Simultaneously, they were notifying parents that all students would be sent home for the day.

"The students who tested positive will not return to the classroom until they are symptom-free and released by the Ford County Health Department."

At this time, there are no plans on closing any of the schools, Baker said.

As of press time, National Beef in Dodge City had not responded to case confirmation.

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